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i. Letters of Jefferson to Marbois, 1781, 1/83 

These two letters were found in the Bibliotheque Nationale 
at Paris (Fonds Frangais, 12768, folios 245, 247) by Professor James 
Westfall Thompson of the University of Chicago. The first has 
an interesting bearing on the genesis of the Notes on Virginia. Mr. 
Paul Ford's statement (Writings of Thomas Jefferson, III. 68) 
may be quoted: 

In 1781 the French ministry directed their American agent to 
gather certain information concerning the several States then forming 
the American union, for the use of the home government. The secre- 
tary of the French legation, Marbois, in pursuance of this instruction, 
drew up a series of questions, which were sent to leading men in the 
different States, who were presumed to be best competent to supply the 
needed answers. These questions produced from several of the States 
replies more or less adequate, a number of which have been since 
printed. On the recommendation of Joseph Jones, then a member of 
the continental congress, a set of queries was sent to Jefferson, then 
still governor of Virginia. 

Jefferson, in his autobiography (Writings, I. 85) says that it 
had been his practice, when he came upon useful pieces of informa- 
tion respecting Virginia, to note them on loose papers. " I thought 
this a good occasion to embody their substance, which I did in the 
order of Mr. Marbois' queries . . . and to arrange them for my own 
use." Mr. Ford prints (III. 68) a letter dated March 4, 1781, in 
which Jefferson promises Marbois his aid. The original of this 
letter, Mr. Thompson tells us, is in the Bibliotheque Nationale (Fonds 
Francois, 12768, folio 243) ; Mr. Ford no doubt printed from the copy 
preserved among the Jefferson manuscripts. But the two letters 
which follow are not in that collection, and have not been printed. 
It will be remembered that Francois de Barbe-Marbois, afterward 
the negotiator of the Louisiana treaty of 1803, was from 1779 to 
1785 secretary of the French legation to the United States, under 
Luzerne as minister. The second letter relates to Jefferson's daugh- 
ter Martha. Her mother had died in 1782. In July, 1784, Jeffer- 
son and the daughter started for Paris, where he put her to school 
in a convent. 


j 6 Documents 

Richmond Dec. 20. 1781 

I now do myself the honour of inclosing you answers to the queries 
which Mr. Jones put into my hands. I fear your patience has been 
exhausted in attending them, but I beg you to be assured there has been 
no avoidable delay on my part. I retired from the public service in 
June only, and after that the general confusion of our state put it out 
of my power to procure the informations necessary till lately. Even 
now you will find them very imperfect and not worth offering but as 
proof of my respect for your wishes. I have taken the liberty of re- 
ferring to you my friend Mr. Charles Thompson 1 for a perusal of them 
when convenient to you. Particular reasons, subsisting between him 
and myself, induced me to give you this trouble. 

If his Excellency the Chevalier de la Luzerne will accept the respects 
of a stranger I beg you to present mine to him, and to consider me as 
being with the greatest regard and esteem Sir 
Your most obedient 

and most humble servt 

Th : Jefferson 
[Indorsement :] Monsr de Marbois 

Secretary to the embassy 

of his most Christian Majesty 

Annapolis Dec. 5. 1783 

Your very obliging letter of Nov. 22 was put into my hands just 
in the moment of my departure from Philadelphia, which put it out of 
my power to acknowledge in the same instant my obligation for the 
charge you were so kind as to undertake of presenting a French tutor 
to my daughter and for the very friendly disposition and attentions you 
flatter me with. The same cause prevented me from procuring her the 
books you were so kind as to recommend, but this shall be supplied by 
orders from hence. I had left with her a Gil Bias 1 and Don Quichotte 
which are among the best books of their class as far as I am acquainted 
with them. The plan of reading which I have formed for her is con- 
siderably different from [that] which I think would be most proper for 
her sex in any other country than America. I am obliged in it to extend 
my views beyond herself, and consider her as possibly at the head of a 
little family of her own. The chance that in marriage she will draw a 
blockhead I calculate at about fourteen to one, and of course that the 
education of her family will probably rest on her own ideas and direc- 
tion without assistance. With the poets and prose writers I shall there- 

1 The original edition of the Notes contained an extensive appendix by Secre- 
tary Charles Thomson ; in subsequent editions his material was distributed 
through the book. 

2 Martha was eleven years old. 

Journal of John Mair, ijgi 77 

fore combine a certain extent of reading in the graver sciences. How- 
ever I. scarcely expect to enter her on this till she returns to me. Her 
time in Philadelphia will be chiefly occupied in acquiring a little taste 
and execution in such of the fine arts as she could not prosecute to 
equal advantage in a more retired situation. 1 

We have yet but four states in Congress. I think when we are 
assembled we shall propose to dispatch the most urging and important 
business, and, putting by what may wait, separate and return to our 
respective states, leaving only a Committee of the States. 2 The constant 
session of Congress cannot be necessary in time of peace, and their 
separation will destroy the strange idea of their being a permanent body, 
which has unaccountably taken possession of the heads of their consti- 
tuents, and occasions jealousies injurious to the public good. 

I have the honour of being with very perfect esteem and respect Sir 
Your most obedient and most humble Servt 

Th: Jefferson 

2. Journal of John Mair, 1791 

John Mair, Esquire, of Iron Acton, father of Mary Charlotte, 
wife of Nassau W. Senior, was born in 1744. His friends bought 
him a commission as cornet of dragoons and he immediately sailed 
for India in 1761. After much active service he retired from the 
army and sailed from India in the same ship with Lord Clive in 
1767. Elaborate journals of his stay in India and subsequent travels 
are in the possession of his granddaughter. He visited Paris 
on his way home, and lived there with John Wilkes and his daughter. 
In 1770 he again visited Paris to be present at the marriage of 
Louis XVI. to Marie Antoinette, whom he ardently admired. He 
was an inveterate traveller, visiting all parts of England and the 
Continent, the United States, Canada, and the West Indies, where he 
was so much charmed with Dominica that he bought an estate 
and lived there several years. During the short time he lived in 
England he spent the winters at Bath. In his old age he bought 
the little estate of Iron Acton in Gloucestershire and took his son 
and two daughters to live with him. John Raven Senior was then 
parson of the parish, hence the marriage of Nassau Senior and Mary 
Mair. Mr. Mair died in London at his son-in-law's house, 13 Hyde 
Park, in 1830, of fatigue brought on by a hasty visit to Paris to 
see the results of the Revolution of 1830. His journals, in the 
possession of Mrs. M. Simpson, of Milmead House, Guildford, Sur- 

1 Jefferson's letter of November 28, 1783, to his daughter (Miss Randolph's 
Domestic Life of Thomas Jefferson, 69 ; Ford, III. 344) shows her programme to 
consist mostly of music, dancing, and drawing, but from three to four o'clock 
each day she was to read French. 

2 Congress did not adjourn till June 3, 1784.